Washington and Oregon-based longshore workers, locked out of their longtime workplace United Grain Corp. at the Port of Vancouver USA since February 27, are hammering United Grain’s Japanese owner, Mitsui, for profiting from Northwest taxpayer investments and destroying local jobs. Union members have a daily presence at Mitsui-United Grain headquarters in downtown Vancouver, and additional support from longshoremen in Seattle, who hand out fliers in the Puget Sound.
“Northwest taxpayers invest in ports and railroads to create local jobs, but Mitsui has shown that it doesn’t care about Washington’s workers or our communities,” said Cager Clabaugh, President of ILWU Local 4 and third-generation longshoreman. “I came to United Grain as a kid to watch my grandfather load grain, and it’s difficult for all of us to see our local jobs taken away and handed to workers Mitsui imported from Florida and Wisconsin. We pay local taxes and spend locally, but the replacement workers take their money out-of-state.”
Clabaugh said the public is receptive to the longshoremen’s message when they speak with them outside of Mitsui’s headquarters in downtown Vancouver. “Mitsui is hurting the Northwest’s economy, because taxpayers make it possible for Mitsui to do business in the U.S., and now dozens of local workers are locked out and unable to earn wages and pay local taxes,” said Clabaugh, whose 200 members live in Washington and Oregon. “About ninety percent of the people we talk to would like to see United Grain end its lockout and allow us to do our jobs.”
The most recent flier handed out by longshoremen refers to the “$275 million West Vancouver Freight Access rail project allows Japan’s Mitsui to export grain shipments for record profits” and the $178 million Columbia River channel deepening project moves Mitsui’s massive grain ships in and out of United Grain.”
United Grain Corp. at the Port of Vancouver USA is owned by Mitsui, a Japanese conglomerate which has the United Grain facility prominently displayed on its corporate web site.* Mitsui-United Grain is a member of the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers’ Association, which also includes Columbia Grain in Portland (owned by Japan’s Marubeni); Louis Dreyfus Commodities in Seattle and Portland (LDC is French-owned but presently headquartered in the Netherlands to avoid French tax increases on the wealthy), and Tacoma-based TEMCO, with facilities in Kalama, Tacoma and Portland. All of the employers except TEMCO imposed a concessionary agreement in December that had been rejected by 94% in a union membership vote; TEMCO continued to negotiate with the ILWU and reached an agreement that was passed by the membership by a 74% yes vote and ratified in February.